Important books to read this year

With the month of Ramazan nearly ending, I have to say it’s been a crazy year. The most fundamental lesson from this year has been to keep communications as brief as possible or it takes a heavy toll on my brain. I’ve taken to enjoying the quiet, distance from polluted life, and the smell of wet soil a lot. It’s one of the many blessings to be grateful to God for.

So, this is a tiny journal entry about two books that are inter-related in an interesting way. I had the privilege to get signed copies from the authors at their launch where I was luckily present. One is Afiya S. Zia’s Faith and Feminism in Pakistan: Religious Agency or Secular Autonomy?, and two: Sophie Richter Devroe’s Women’s Political Activism in Palestine: Peacebuilding, Resistance, and Survival.

So, how are they related? Let’s look at the basics. Both books, as obvious from the title are concerned with womens personal and political struggles with oppressive power structures. Secondly, the eras covered in the books are interesting. Both of them are concentrated in the period of second to third-wave feminisms. Though both authors ascribe to the basic personal is the political theory when talking about women’s struggles, one cannot miss the stark class differences of the women examined or interviewed for the comprehensive books.

Dr. Zia’s book is loaded with theoretical frameworks from published academics as her subject of examination are women from upper working class families with sufficient privileges to challenge oppressive tactics of a theocratic and/or militarized state. Therefore, understandably, in Dr. Zia’s thesis, feminism as a movement started taking root in Pakistan in the late 70s and the 80s, since there are heavy references to the Women’s Action Forum and their ambassadors. Dr. Devroe’s work is based on interviews with ordinary women, widows, mothers, housewives, orphans, witnesses to the First Intifida, (again) from the 80s.

The glitch? Dr. Zia’s book is silent about women’s struggles in 1947 (Partition), and in Dr. Devroe’s book, witnesses to the 1948 (Nakba) have not been interviewed. Maybe its only me because the post-World War II and Partition-era human, economic and environment issues are my basic areas of research. For Palestine, Devroe’s negligence of the Nakba witnesses is understandable as Palestinian women officially earned the right to vote in 1996. Since women in India and Pakistan were granted the right to vote in 1947, why did it take four decades for a feminist movement to begin (speaking from Dr. Zia’s perspective of course)? Then again, I may have already answered that question in the previous paragraphs. Sigh.

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